Day Tour of Athens
Trip Start Mar 18, 2011
13Trip End Apr 02, 2011
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Where I stayed
Econotel Hotel, Athens
After yesterday's fuss, we got to bed at 11pm and woke up at 4am in the grips of jet lag but not feeling fatigued in the least. Today, I'd booked a day trip with a local small-group guide. An advantage of travelling in the slow season is that today's tour was private! On that, everyone we encounter says the tourist industry has been decimated in Greece.
After a great breakfast of baked cheese in filo pastry and two large lattes [each], we met our wonderful guide, Angelica, in the Metro station at Sygmata (Constitution) Square. This is the heart of downtown Athens. First up was the changing of the guard at the Parliament Building followed by a walk through the National Gardens which led to the first ruins of the day: the Temple of Olympus Zeus, built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian (circa 200AD, I recall)
The Parthenon is the most inspiring building I have seen in my life: form, architectural and engineering genius, and stunning sculpture. Originally built in only nine years, followed by six more to decorate it, fully-painted art adorned every surface. It must have been stunning. I can only think of two other places that might equally impress: Karnak Temple in Luxor and Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Both are on my bucket list!
After lunch, we did a tour of the new (2005) Acropolis Museum which houses much of the remaining original works from the Parthenon. As you can imagine, the Greeks are incensed that the British Museum still holds the Elgin Freizes, violently looted from the Parthenon in the late 19th Century. What a crime then and now.
That night, we poked through the Plaka district which lies below the Arcropolis. This is Old Town -- and tourist central. But the crowds are light this time of year and the stores that sell high-end jewelry down to "sandals in an hour" are all stuffed to delight and brightly lit.....the smells of Greek cuisine penetrating it all.
What a wonderful day with my sweetie.